Information & Facts
Summer (late November to March) is the only time when tourists
can visit Antarctica and even then temperatures are close to
freezing along the coastal regions. The interior plateau is much
colder due to its higher elevation and distance from the sea. The
Antarctic Peninsula has the most moderate climate, with
temperatures averaging from 5°F to 60°F (-15°C to 16°C). December
and January are the warmest months and can have up to 20 hours of
sunshine a day, while in winter it is dark almost 24 hours a day
with temperatures falling well below -76°F (-60°C), and the
surrounding ice pack makes access by ship out of the question. To
view mating rituals among the seabirds and penguins November is the
best month, while December and January are the height of the
tourist season and when penguin colonies are feeding their newborn
chicks. The best time to see whales is during February and
The international dialling code for Antarctica is +672.
Ship-based communication is by satellite phone.
When visiting research bases or stations in Antarctica, tourists
are asked to remove shoes, never to enter a building unless
invited, not to interfere with scientific work, and to remember
that researchers are using up precious work time to accommodate
them. Make sure that restroom facilities aboard ship are used
beforevisiting a base, as it is very bad practice to ask to
use one on shore and it adds to the amount of waste that has to be
removed by the researchers at a later date.
Each ship and base has its own electricity supply.
Russian ships will have a 220-volt, 50Hz supply with a round
two-pin plug connection.
Extreme cold temperatures and wind chill in Antarctica can lead
to hypothermia. Due to the thin ozone layer it is essential that a
high protection sunscreen be worn, and the glare from the ice and
water necessitates the wearing of sunglasses. The crossing of rough
seas will require most passengers to take some form of seasickness
preventative medication. All passenger ships have an onboard
doctor, but health insurance is imperative and must include
emergency evacuation, which can be exorbitantly expensive.
Most ships accept credit cards and US dollars and often there is
a currency exchange facility on board where it is also possible to
exchange travellers cheques. In Antarctica itself, each base uses
the currency of their home country.
As no one owns the Antarctic continent, no visitors require a
visa or passport; however, a valid passport will be required for
any stops en route, and visas and passports may be needed for
points of departure. Most Western countries are signatories of the
Antarctica Treaty and those wishing to visit Antarctica
independently must obtain a permit.
The waters around Antarctica can be extremely rough, and in bad
conditions loose equipment not tied down on board ship can cause
injury; similarly passengers can be caught off balance during high
seas. Sea ice is a polar hazard and icebergs are capable of sinking
even a large ship. A cruise ship hit ice just off the Antarctic
Peninsula on 23 November 2007 and started sinking, causing the
evacuation of its 154 passengers and crew. The incident serves to
highlight the dangers of Antarctic tourism. The US and UK warned a
conference of Antarctic treaty nations that the tourism situation
in the Antarctic region was a disaster in the making with some
cruise ships carrying in excess of 3,000 people, and more than
35,000 people visiting during the season.
There are no official time zones in Antarctica, and research
stations usually go by the time of their home country for
Tips are not included in the cost of a passenger ship in
Antarctica, but are usually expected by the staff. Size of tip
varies, but about US$10-15 per day per person is recommended.